Workers removed a statue depicting the 19th century explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark towering over their Native American interpreter Sacagawea from a public park in Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday afternoon, hours after the city dismantled two Confederate statues that fueled a violent white nationalist rally in 2017.
The statue of Meriwether Lewis, William Clark and Sacagawea is removed from Charlottesville, … [+] Virginia on Saturday.
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Charlottesville’s City Council voted unanimously to remove the statue of Lewis, Clark and Sacagawea in a special meeting Saturday, city spokesperson Brian Wheeler confirmed to Forbes.
Removal work for statues of Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson wrapped up earlier than expected Saturday, Wheeler explained, so city councilors chose to follow through with plans to remove the Lewis, Clark and Sacagawea statue while workers and equipment were still onsite.
The sculpture of the 19th century explorers was sent to the nearby Lewis & Clark Exploratory Center after it was removed from a downtown park, and Wheeler says the city will work with the organization to present the monument in an appropriate context.
The Lee and Jackson statues are currently being stored on city property, and local officials haven’t decided on their ultimate fate.
City councilors in Charlottesville expressed their intention to take down the century-old Lewis, Clark and Sacagawea statue in 2019. The sculpture shows Sacagawea — who was key to Lewis and Clark’s expedition through the American West — crouching timidly at the two Virginia explorers’ feet, an image many Native American groups found offensive.
The successful removal of Jackson and Lee’s statues ends a contentious, dark and sometimes violent years-long process. The City Council voted to remove sculptures of the two men in 2017, but the city’s plans were ensnared in a lawsuit from the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Later that year, far right, white nationalist and neo-Nazi groups descended on Charlottesville for the “Unite the Right” rally, an event nominally held to prevent the statues from being removed. In a shocking display, some rallygoers openly carried Nazi flags, chanted racist and anti-Semitic slogans and were tied to the murder of counterprotester Heather Heyer.
“Taking down this statue is one small step closer to the goal of helping Charlottesville, Virginia, and America, grapple with the sin of being willing to destroy Black people for economic gain,” Charlottesville Mayor Nikuyah Walker said Saturday.